shifting a fixed mind set

There’s been a lot of buzz around the power of fostering a growth mindset culture. And there should be. Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist has studied this topic extensively. Through her research, she has found that employees in a growth mindset organization are 34% likelier to feel a strong sense of commitment to their company and 49% likelier to say that their company fosters innovation.

These statistics point to the financial upside that companies gain from engaged employees and fostering an innovative culture.

However, there’s a missing piece in the growth mindset conversation – how do you shift years of fixed mindset thinking, especially when working across cultures where this kind of mindset has been reinforced since birth?

Managing a diverse workforce comes with a myriad of challenges. I touched upon this in a recent piece on the importance of communication. Here are three approaches to help shift a team’s mindset and ways you as a leader can foster growth and innovation.

  1. Find opportunities that push team members out of their comfort zone. Push may be a strong word but it’s an important one.When someone has adopted a fixed mindset, they prefer to stay in their comfort zone. You’ll hear a million excuses – I’m not good at something like that, I don’t know anything about that, etc. But as a manager and leader, you have the opportunity to gently push them away from their comfort zone by encouraging and empowering them to try new things and take on new projects. Without getting too cliché, amazing things happen beyond your comfort zone. When you take away someone’s fear of failure, you’d be surprised at the results.
  2. Encourage questions. We often feel the need to have all the answers, especially as leaders. However, this perpetuates fixed mindset behavior by making people feel like they can’t ask questions and that they’re just not good at something that they should be. Adopt the mantra ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and share this widely with your teams, encouraging them to speak up when they don’t understand. Don’t forget to apply this mantra to yourself too. Showing your team that you’re upfront about what you don’t know helps create a safe space that can lead to big learnings.

  3. Be mindful of how you are perceived. Are you helping or hurting the shift? It’s very easy to want a growth mindset team but this also means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and continuing your learning. How do you feel when someone on your team manages up and shares feedback and criticism? Do you use it to support you in your own learning journey? Or do you bristle at the thought of a direct report “calling you out?”

You may be thinking to yourself: Amy, I’ve tried all of these before. I’ve read the books! I’ve read the articles! It just isn’t working! It’s important to remember that some change is slow, especially when you’re teaching someone to think differently. Just because you haven’t seen it yet, doesn’t mean you won’t.

As with learning any new skill, consistency and time are key.